Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Sketchbooks at Lydiard

I almost always display my sketchbooks or journals when I am exhibiting work and there is space available to do so. Shown below is a page from my latest journal showing progress towards a 3 D stitched piece (and maybe other things too in the future - who knows) developing black and white, the tracery of branches and contour lines and hills.



I'll show the whole black and white piece once the exhibition is set up ... and once the piece is finished ...

I love the whole process of working my way through and round a new series of work. The taking of photos, playing in Adobe Photoshop, finding of other references, consideration of stitch patterns and experimenting with ideas in paper all give me great enjoyment - as much pleasure, in fact, as the work on the final piece. There is a freedom about the process where mistakes don't matter and indeed may well turn out not to be mistakes at all.

Recording this practice as I go in a large spiro bound journal - around 40 cm by 25 cm - is, for me, a part of the process of organising my thoughts and deciding what to do. When I see things mounted and on a page side by side I often find myself making links I hadn't thought of. 

I'll have the latest journal - not finished because these never are - on view for the next two months at Lydiard House, Swindon, where I'll be exhibiting with Great Western Embroiderers from Thursday of next week. As usual, the whole thing is work in progress with lots of uncertainty on every page and possibilities for the future. 

Several other members also keep sketchbooks of one kind or another and these will also be on view.  

This time, I think we all feel particular pleasure in showing our books as the archives of Lydiard House contain small sketchbooks produced by members of the St John family who previously lived in the house. Many of these relate to their travels and in particular to The Grand Tour so often undertaken by the children of wealthy families in their twenties. Through our own sketchbooks, we feel part of the continuing process.

I've included two photos of St John family sketchbooks below. The first is a drawing of Lahneck in the German Rhineland. I don't know who drew it but I find it charming and a search on Google revealed very recognisable photographs of the turreted buildings - a real pleasure! 


The second was a watercolour of the Ghazipur district in India. After the success with the first, I Googled this too and again learnt all about the area. 
One member of our group took this painting as a starting point for a piece of work - I will maybe show it also once the exhibition is open.


Sunday, 23 March 2014

Drawing with straight lines

I seem to have been chasing after myself this week - too much to do, and wanting to do all of it! Time to spend on the online course with Dionne Swift that I stared on Monday has been very hard to come by.

Still, this weekend I've managed to catch up a bit and spent much of yesterday drawing with straight lines using various media for mark making and straight edges of different sizes. I've really enjoyed what I've done. Two examples are shown here, the first trying to achieve curves or near circles and the second using mainly vertical lines ...



Neither of these are quite what we were asked to do but rather my extension of the tasks Dionne gave us. To find out exactly what this is all about you will have to sign up for Drawing for Textiles on Dionne Swift's website - it's well worth the money!


Friday, 21 March 2014

Yesterday's Yellow

Time has run away with me this week and I've only sat down today to think rainbow colours and yellow in particular but I have a post of contrasts.

First of all I've made a small grid of local road signs. These are rather prosaic perhaps, but with much yellow nonetheless. Indeed, I hadn't realised until I started looking just how much yellow there is to be found on British signage.


On another tack altogether, yellow flowers are all over our gardens now here in the UK as spring has well and truly sprung. Everywhere you look there are cultivated daffodils and crocuses and all those millions of wild dandelions and celandines.

I gave a short talk recently to my weekly French class about the language of flowers and I thought I'd share some of this with you (not in my rather dodgy French, you'll be glad to hear ...). The sending of messages through flowers was fashionable in Britain, France and the USA in the 19th century and often, though not always, expressed feelings of love or friendship. When I was researching the idea, I found some charming thoughts.

These yellow crocus flowers are said to bring gaiety and the joy of youth,


this mixed clump of daffodils from my garden to bring high esteem, love without equal or say 'The sun always shines when I am with you',


and these gentle little primroses nestling in a corner of our garden by a small stone wall might bring silent affection and say, ' I cannot live without you'.


If you're amused by this idea, you will find many, many more references in The Forgotten Language of Flowers. This is a long list of British flowers and trees, both wild and cultivated, with their meanings. The language of flowers was reportedly brought to the UK in the early 18th century by Lady Mary Wortley Montague, the wife of the then British Ambassador to Constantinople.

My thoughts as I looked through the list were that I might want to consider my choice carefully next time I buy flowers for a friend!


Monday, 17 March 2014

Drawing and colour

I began Dionne Swift's Drawing for Textiles online course this morning . I spent a happy time freeing up my drawing technique again with continuous drawing, using a variety of mark-making tools - fine and thick marker pens, one of which was refillable, and a thick charcoal stick. It was suggested we should restrict ourselves to black marks so we could focus on the weight of mark and its nature rather than worrying about colour.

This I did when I was doing the exercise this morning and a small section isolated with an oblong window is shown here ...



But ... this afternoon, I just couldn't resist the temptation to isolate some other areas on my drawings with a window and then take my Inktense pastels and add some colour.

The results are shown here somewhat enhanced in Photoshop ...



... and I really enjoyed breaking the rules ... but I'll be back on the straight and narrow tomorrow.



Friday, 14 March 2014

New pens and a stone wall

I went into my local art shop in Cirencester this morning for a new sketch book ... and was immediately enticed by some delicious-looking Kozo paper and some Faber-Castell Pitt brush pens.

The pens come in packs in all sorts of colours as well as separately and I bought the grey shades pack and a loose black. These seemed to feed my current fixation with black and white - tweaked a little by the grey.



When I got home, I rushed immediately to try the feel of the pens - the black first - but I saved the Kozo paper till I was in a more considered and careful mood.

I spent twenty minutes sketching the stone wall just outside my work room, looking at the shapes of the stones and the negative spaces between them. The pens will take a little getting used to as I tended to press too hard (I always do ...) and the line I produced lacked subtlety and control, but the feel of the pen on the paper was a real pleasure.


Later in the afternoon, I found the time to do some playing, and couldn't resist the Kozo paper. I drew randomly on it, experimenting with the Pitt pens to check out the quality and firmness of the line and the possible tones - more wandering lines and dots and dashes meandering across the page - very calming ...


And then some cropping and rotating and gridding of the images ...


... just for fun ... and a bit of practice!


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Lydiard tasters

In the next two or three weeks, I'll post a few small tasters ahead of our exhibition at Lydiard House, Swindon, opening on 3 April - and this is the first.

Great Western Embroiderers, are a group of between 20 and 30 stitchers of very varying interests but we always make something to which everyone contributes. This time, it was to be two concertina books A5 size containing a small piece of work from each of us, 7 inches by 5 inches in size, and accompanied by a short statement about ourselves and our work. The pieces are therefore intended to represent us, to summarise what we think is important in our work and what we most enjoy doing.

Such activities are always very revealing and, in our case, give rise to the complete cross-section of embroidery and stitch and often include weaving, beading and lace-making.

First here is my effort, a small piece of weaving executed with minimal planning in an afternoon because I always seem to leave such things till the very last minute. In fact, it's yet to be finished and sewn into its place in one of the concertina books - my job for this evening. Sometimes it can be good to work on impulse ...?


And then there is a view of one of the finished books, now carefully stored in my dining room ready for the hanging at the end of March.


This has been a very gratifying collaboration - a lovely day was spent with my friend, Ruth, designing and thinking through the making of the concertina books, then there was the interest of seeing how everyone recorded their purpose in their work, and today there was the pleasure as the pieces were stitched in to the books and everything fell into place.

Today was also hand-in day for our work and it was fascinating to see the pieces I'd thus far only seen described on the entry forms as I typed up the lists of work. As always there were some lovely surprises ... more of these gems another time ...


Friday, 7 March 2014

Treescape play

Nothing demanding today - just spent a few idle moments playing with some tree photos taken when on holiday a while back.

It's amazing what can be done in Adobe Photoshop with a photo taken on rather a dull Yorkshire day just simply by playing with black and white, colour hue and saturation and contrast.

First of all I converted to black and white .... definitely a stormy lowering sky ...


Then I returned to colour and upped the saturation ... suddenly quite summery and crisp ...


Then I intensified the saturation still further and played with the lightness ... the Northern Lights gone mad?


Experimentation and play, leading maybe nowhere ... but who knows?

Now trying to apply layers and failing ... next lesson ...!



Thursday, 6 March 2014

Great Western Embroiderers at Lydiard House

As I've mentioned many times before, I stitch and exhibit regularly with Great Western Embroiderers, a group of enthusiastic and accomplished stitchers, based in Cricklade, Wilthsire. Working and exhibiting with the members is always a pleasure. 

From 3 April, we will be exhibiting again in the staterooms at Lydiard House, Swindon, with the theme Customs and Crafts An Exploration in Stitch. This time we will be joined by the Kingsdown Woodcarvers - poster with details shown left for anyone who might able to come.

We are a varied bunch. Our work ranges from beautifully executed traditional stitch, quilting and lace-making to explorations of new and unusual ways of working with the old crafts and techniques.

Following visits to Lydiard, we have been inspired by the crafts and customs to be found in large houses and estates in times gone by. Many crafts will be on show including weaving, smocking, knitting, crochet and basket work. 

One member has delved into her own past when she was learning her craft to find a tiny baby's dress completed in shadow work for an A level examination in the 1960s. This will be on show alongside our current work.

We will be stewarding regularly throughout the two months of the exhibition and we have a 'Meet the Artists' day at Lydiard on Tuesday 8 April. On that day, most of the group will be stitching in and around the house and will be very happy to talk about their work and about all things stitch and textile. 

Lydiard House and Park are both well worth a visit at any time. On a sunny spring day, the grounds are a delight - and excellent for any non-stitch partners who want to come on a day out.



Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Dionne Swift Drawing for Textiles

Next Monday I will be starting an online course with Dionne Swift. As regular readers of this blog may remember, I did her sketchbook course last spring and found it really inspiring and motivating. I posted about it several times last april - one example is to be found here.

This time it will be Drawing for Textiles.  If it is half as good as the sketchbook course was, it will be excellent and I'm really looking forward to it.

Dionne gives very good clear teaching via videos which are downloaded daily. There is then the possibility to upload photos of the work generated to a closed Facebook group for comment by Dionne and the other members of the group. (If you are interested, I see from Dionne's website that there are still places on the course ...)

Dionne's own work is most interesting. As well as the large image above which is the thumbnail for the course, two other little snippets follow as a taster,  - a mini stitched piece and a card. All are taken from her website :

I love the chance that classes like these give to be single-minded but it is often really difficult to find the right course at the right moment. The wrong one working on the wrong technique can merely throw up too many diversions and irrelevant side turnings.

As I've realised this about myself, I've become much more choosy about what workshops I follow.
I've chosen to do this course now because I think it really fits in with the way my work seems to be going.

Time will tell if I'm right, but I certainly hope so.


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Scottish Etcher Alec Fraser

Just now, I'm finishing off work for an upcoming exhibition so there is little stitch to show till all that's completed. Instead, I thought I would put up a post I've had in mind for some time.

A favourite artist of ours is etcher and painter Alec Fraser who trained at Grays School of Art in Aberdeen and worked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was a prolific painter of portraits and landscapes and was head of Grays Art School for 20 years until 1934. His etchings are underrated and unfashionable ... but then that is our gain as they are very affordable.

Paris Plage - Alec Fraser

We have several of his etchings and love the calmness and definition of the monochrome. His work is beautifully executed and full of delicate detail. It was hard to choose my favourite for this post but I think it is the one I'm showing here, though I could have chosen several others. Alec Fraser visited France often and this etching was completed following a visit to the beach near Paris Plage on the north coast.

I feel unfortunately that the photo really doesn't do the piece justice because inevitably it's behind glass. It is much sharper and more contrasting in tone in reality . Although I played with the image in Photoshop, I couldn't quite get rid of the reflections.

Regular followers of this blog will know that my husband and I often go to Aberdeenshire. We bought this piece in a little antique shop and gallery in Dinnet in the Dee Valley - The Auld Alliance. The name is a reference to the strong historical ties between Scotland and France and the fact that Dave Hendry, the owner, has lived for a long time in France during his life.

When we are in Aberdeenshire, we always pay Dave a visit. He runs a wonderfully eclectic shop with etchings and paintings all over the walls and quirky gems lurking on dusty shelves. Every visit is entertaining, even if we buy nothing. He specialises in etchings and always has many by different artists for sale in his shop. He is relaxed, friendly and knowledgeable. I know we will go back when we visit the Dee Valley again later in the spring.

... Incidentally, for British viewers to BBC antiques programmes, this shop has featured several times on Antiques Roadtrip.